As a resident of DeKalb County and a friend to many employed by the DeKalb County School System, I thought this was an interesting and surprising choice. DeKalb names a new leader. Is she the right one?, is the headline on the AJC…

Earlier this week, a DeKalb parent called to tell me that Cheryl L. H. Atkinson would likely be named DeKalb school chief. The parent was disappointed because Atkinson, a finalist for the APS job that went to former Georgia Chancellor Erroll Davis, led such a small system in Ohio.

I pass the tip onto news here at the AJC, which is now reporting that Atkinson will take over the troubled DeKalb system next month. She leaves the Lorain City Schools, an Ohio system of 8,000 students and one high school, to manage DeKalb with nearly 100,000 students.

She is making quite a leap. Clearly, Atkinson is impressive to have also been a finalist for the APS job. But there is reason to be concerned about her lack of experience leading a mega system, especially one with an entrenched bureaucracy, a recent history of chaos and a frustrated parent base.

(An interesting side note after witnessing the recent school chief search in not just DeKalb, but in several other metro counties and in some out-of-state districts: It seems that all the systems operate out of the same list of potential candidates. I am not sure why any district wastes money on professional headhunters to generate a list of such obvious names. Just read about the candidates being considered by other districts and approach them directly. Districts would save hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

Here is her bio:

Dr. Cheryl L. H. Atkinson has been the Superintendent of Lorain City Schools since August 2007. During her tenure, she has implemented a comprehensive reform model, Success For All, which has increased Ohio Achievement Test scores in reading for all elementary and middle schools. Dr. Atkinson has also moved the district forward technologically by implementing an electronic grade reporting system, Progress Book, giving parents daily access to their children’s grades. In addition, all students in grades 6 through 11 have been issued E-books instead of traditional textbooks. Students now have all their textbooks loaded electronically on a laptop, which enables them to access the current learning tools and technologies they need to compete in the 21st Century workforce.

Dr. Atkinson was formally Deputy Superintendent of the Kansas City, Missouri School District, a district with more than 38,000 students and more than 70 schools. She also served as Associate Superintendent for School Administration and Regional Superintendent for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, a district with over 125,000 students in over 150 schools.

Dr. Atkinson holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Learning and a Master of Education in Elementary Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She earned her Doctor of Education in Educational Administration from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. She has been married for 21 years to Terrence L. Atkinson, Sr. They have three sons.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog



  • Mr. Say_That says:

    I hope she knows what she’s getting into. Welcome to the jungle!

  • Darlene says:

    As a Lorain teacher, I wish you well. We will certainly not miss Dr. Atkinson.

    Dr. Atkinson has spent her time in Lorain with a series of blunders and missteps that would be almost comical, if they weren’t so sad. Just a few examples:

    She renegotiated her contract for a HUGE raise right before an election involving a major school levy, while the public was still not allowed to see the results of her performance evaluation. That the levy lost by a large margin was no surprise to anyone but her.

    She could not find a house in the district to suit her, so she moved her family to a neighboring (better) district where she rented a house from the board attorney who wrote her contract.

    She walled herself off from the public, refusing to answer questions from parents and staff. Twice a year, she comes down from her throne to inspire the masses with one of her down-homey speeches (which, by the way, are really good—she is definitely talented in that regard).

    And the so-called reforms? Success For All has been a failure, both due to her lack of correct implementation and the fact that it just isn’t a good program. Any progress has come from teachers who are doing the best they can to provide extra reading instruction. Our higher-ability students have actually had LOWER achievement than previously. The gains that brought up the district’s rating were largely a consequence of consolidating the two high schools, and exist mostly on paper.

    Good luck. (And I mean that sincerely).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *